Category Archives: Memoirs and Autobiographies

A Comic’s Life

Beforehand

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Watching the episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian’s In Cars Getting Coffee when Steve Martin is the guest, a brief mention of Steve Martin’s writing and this book in particular, and the next thing I know I’ve ordered it for my sister.

The book was published in 2007 but at times it read a bit dated, although the only specific reference was the mention, a couple of times, of Bill Cosby in a positive light. With what we’ve learned about Cosby in recent years, this felt odd. Maybe it seemed dated because of the lack of a troubled young adulthood. It isn’t that Steve Martin tells his life as all sunshine and roses, but it isn’t a memoir that makes you wander how his daughter will feel when she reads it. Maybe that makes it an autobiography instead of a memoir?

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Memory

“A homeless woman, let’s call her my mother for now, or yours, sits on a window ledge in late afternoon in a working-class neighborhood in Cleveland, or it could be Baltimore or Detroit.”

Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

I heard Ms. Bartok interviewed about this book and was intrigued by what I heard about the choice between no medication and being yourself both creatively and dangerously vs. taking medication and being socially acceptable but not yourself and sort of dulled. I was disappointed because I didn’t find this addressed in the book, so I went back and read the transcript of the interview. There is absolutely nothing in that interview that addresses or even alludes to that question. How very odd.

Having recently read a book about using the memory palace technique for Book Club, it was interesting to have it as a framework for this memoir. Even with that technique, however, in the first chapters I frequently felt skeptical about how much detail Ms. Bartok seems to remember from her early childhood.

It was an interesting story, from my point of view more successful as an indictment of how the United States deals with our mentally ill than a memoir. Either way, I’m glad I read it.

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